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Starlite Theatre replaces Barbara Fairchild venue

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by Carol Harris

SBJ Contributing Writer

It will be construction workers who literally "bring down the house" following Branson entertainer Barbara Fairchild's final show of the season at her theater on West Highway 76 in December.

Preliminary work has begun for a 50-foot-high glass atrium fronting a 900-seat theater and '50s theme restaurant on the current site of the Barbara Fairchild Theater. Theater developers Ron and Judy Layher, also of Branson, announced Oct. 28 the construction of the new 26,000-square-foot Starlite Theatre.

According to Judy Layher, the design of the complex will suggest "Main Street, small town America." She said, "We will have an actual road inside. The doors (of the atrium) can open for a real car to drive in for special events."

Inside the atrium, visitors will find old cinema-style doors leading to the theater's box office, full-size buildings that will house offices and a variety store, soda fountain-type concessions and a franchise restaurant called the 5 & Diner.

The 11,000-square-foot atrium lobby will have a park and gazebo, and will accommodate specialty events such as conventions, weddings, and group and club meetings, Layher said. Three local companies are working on the project General Design Inc., Yung Design Group and Fall Creek Construction Company, Layher added.

"This is going to be a challenge," said Rick Huffman, president of Fall Creek Construction, who named April 8, 1999, as the completion date for the theater, with the whole complex to be finished by mid-April 1999.

Huffman said work on the new theater was to have begun Oct. 29. "We will be pouring concrete around the outside, while the (Fairchild) theater is still in operation. The existing theater is a metal building ... it will be immediately coming down after Barbara's last show."

Ken Higgenbottom, founder and CEO of the 5 & Diner restaurants based in Phoenix, Ariz., said, "We're building restaurants from Las Vegas to Orlando, Fla., right now."

He said the Branson restaurant will have 200 seats on two floors, plus patio seating, with the ability to accommodate group tours. The diner will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and will be open late following the theater shows.

Scheduled to perform at the new Starlite Theater are Doug Gabriel, "American Kids" and a new show called "Lost in the '50s."

Doug Gabriel, who is a three-time recipient of the Branson Male Vocalist of the Year Award, will be moving his morning show from the Roy Clark Theatre.

Layher said a special time slot at 5:30 p.m. has been assigned to "American Kids," a show that she produces and that was performed last summer at the Barbara Fairchild Theater. She said Mike Meece, of Dallas, Texas, will direct "American Kids" along with the new "Lost in the '50s" show scheduled for 2 and 8 p.m. next season.

Meece is also the director for two other Branson shows, "The Promise" and "Two From Galilee," and is now in Dallas directing a new stage musical adaptation of the Jimmy Stewart classic film "It's a Wonderful Life."

Meanwhile, Barbara Fairchild has announced plans to perform a morning show at the Braschler Music Theater on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway in Branson. Fairchild will continue performing her morning and evening shows at her existing theater until Dec. 19, and will begin her 1999 show season at the Braschler Music Theater March 25, 1999.

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